Thursday, July 30, 2015

Blueberry Lemon Corn Muffins with Honey-Cardamom Butter

Is there a more classic, more universally loved muffin than the blueberry muffin? No one dislikes a blueberry muffin. Delicious sweet muffin batter paired with juicy, lightly tart berries- what's not to like? I like them so much that this is my second blueberry muffin recipe on this blog.

S and I  like to spend as many summer weekends as possible at our favorite campground, staying in the massive, two room, six person tent we jokingly call our summer home. We pitch this palace of a tent in our very favorite spot, beneath the towering trees in the sands of the Pine Barrens in New Jersey. You may be thinking New Jersey is a weird place to call your favorite weekend getaway, but the Pine Barrens are something else.

Despite New Jersey being the most densely populated state in the country, the Pine Barrens are about as close to the middle of nowhere as you can get within 100 miles of New York City. Once you exit the highway, you drive through several tiny towns, then you pass the commercial berry farms stretching for miles, then the buildings where the migrant workers live, and the grassy airstrip where little private planes and crop dusters sometimes land, then finally you pass into the barrens. There's nothing but pine trees, blueberry bushes, sand roads, and little tea-colored rivers with cranberries growing all along their banks as far as the eye can see.

We hike down sand roads with our inflatable inner tubes, occasionally hitching a ride with a ranger to our put in point, then float down the river on the tubes, plucking berries off the low hanging branches of giant blueberry bushes and snacking on them as we drift slowly by, and sipping Great Lakes Brewery beers that we pick up from a certain discount liquor store on our way. At our campsite we swing in our hammocks, I build a rip roaring campfire, and we roast sausages or cook up cowboy chili for dinner. And in the mornings, before the heat sets in, we pick blueberries. They grow everywhere in the barrens, surrounding every camp site, and we usually fill at least one quart sized container to take home for the week.

As we were packing to head back into the barrens last week S pointed out that I hadn't used up the rest of the blueberries from the week before, and as I already had a whole quart frozen, I decided I'd use these while they're fresh. So I whipped up these muffins, using cornmeal because I love a good corn muffin, and lemon zest to add a little bit of zing to the sweet wild berries. They were heavenly, like a little bite of the countryside here in the heart of Manhattan! 

Blueberry Lemon Corn Muffins

1 1/4 C + 1 tbsp Flour divided
1 C cornmeal
1/3 C sugar
1/3 C honey
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Zest of 2 lemons
2 tbsp greek yogurt, sour cream, or creme fraiche
1 1/4 C Milk
2 large eggs
2 tbsp melted butter
1 1/2 C Blueberries

Honey-Cardamom Butter

8 tbsp butter, softened
2 tsp honey 
1/2 tsp cardamom

Preheat oven to 400F.
Place the blueberries in a medium bowl and toss with 1 tbsp flour, set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the rest of the flour, the cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and lemon zest. Set aside. 

Add the greek yogurt, sour cream, or creme fraiche to a 2 C measuring cup, then add enough milk to make 1 1/4 C, mix well until smooth. Add to a medium bowl, along with the eggs, honey, vanilla, and melted butter. Whisk until well combined and a bit frothy. 

Stir wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients until everything has just blended into batter. Gently fold in the blueberries until just combined. 

Either grease a muffin pan, or use muffin tin liners. Spoon batter into muffin tin until cups are 3/4 full. Bake 12-15 minutes, until muffins are golden brown, and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. 

While muffins bake, combine all honey butter ingredients in a small bowl, mix with a fork until all ingredients are combined, and either spoon into a bowl and keep at room temperature for soft butter, or roll into a log using parchment and pop in the fridge if you prefer cold butter. 

When muffins are ready, remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool for 5-10 minutes, then enjoy! 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Chocolate Cherry Floats

Lets talk about ice cream floats. Did you know they're pretty much the perfect dessert? You can make them with a myriad of ingredients that can be found at just about any corner store, they come together in a snap yet look decadent as heck, and they're just so delicious. So, so darn delicious.

There's the ever-popular root beer float, the chocolatey brown cow, the tasty Coke float, there are vegan variations, and even Butterbeer copycats. I love all variations of the ice cream + soda combination. For a while as a kid I loved to get classic ice cream sodas at a local place, where you chose any type of ice cream you liked, and they topped it with with a fruit or chocolate syrup, and plain soda water. 

I really liked, at this ice cream shop, to get a rich chocolatey ice cream, and a fruity syrup, like strawberry or cherry. The deep, decadent chocolate ice cream would melt into the fruity, crisp soda in a really phenomenal way. And the fruit syrup would turn the soda foam a really gorgeous shocking hue. 

This float is my homage to that childhood treat. You can use absolutely any type of chocolate ice cream you like, I went with a classic- Haagen Dazs Chocolate, but I think a really rich dark chocolate would be lovely- or even a dark chocolate sorbet. Similarly, use any cherry soda you like. You could even use cherry cola, though it will produce a browner foam. I used Stewarts Cherries 'N' Cream soda, which was delightful. 

This recipe is super simple- you only have to cook the hot fudge, and you could do that in a microwave if you really wanted (just run it in short increments at 70% power, mixing often). It's very short cook time makes it an excellent choice for a summer dessert. You could even make the hot fudge ahead of time and just zap it a moment to rewarm it before serving, bringing your prep time down even lower! I hope you enjoy this delicious little treat as much as I did!

Chocolate Cherry Floats
(Makes 4 floats)

1 Pint Chocolate Ice Cream
2 12.5oz Bottles Cherry Soda

Hot Fudge 
1/2 C Butter
1 14oz Can Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 C Chocolate Chips

First, make the hot fudge. In a small sauce pan, melt the butter. Stir in the chocolate chips, and when mostly melted, mix in the sweetened condensed milk. Stir for a bit until glossy and smooth. Set aside.

Put 1 Scoop ice cream in each cup, pour 1/2 a bottle of soda over top (tilt your cup and pour slowly to avoid fizzing over), top with another scoop of ice cream and drizzle with hot fudge. Enjoy! 

Monday, July 6, 2015

Honeydew Custard Tarts

Juicy, cool, pale green honeydew melons are the perfect treat on a hot summer day. Something about cracking open a giant melon just screams summer to me. The watery, juicy flesh quenches that unquenchable hot-july-day thirst, and their gentle honeyed sweetness just shouts of dewy summer mornings. 

It was with melon's summery spirit in mind that I made these tarts. They're a lovely marriage of summery green honeydew and rich, indulgent vanilla custard. I love custard. Creamy, thick, perfectly-eggy vanilla custard pairs well with pretty much any fruit, and with honeydew it's a match made in heaven.

The custard gives the honeydew a nice body, a delightful creamy richness, turning the juicy melon into a velvety, smooth pudding that still maintains it's summery fresh flavor. Think of these as summer's answer to a pumpkin pie. All that creamy consistency and rich flavor, but instead of autumnal gourd, this tart offers up crisp fresh melon notes. 

I would serve these at a backyard dinner party, on a big table set with lots of lanterns, big glasses of prosecco, and fresh peonies- that is, if I had something as luxurious as a backyard. As is, S and I took them up to our DIY-terrace (ie. our bare roof, where we keep plastic lawn furniture), and enjoyed them after dinner while the sun set, and that was pretty spectacular too. Anywhere you serve them, these tarts are guaranteed to please!

Honeydew Custard Tarts

1 1/2 C graham cracker crumbs (about 1.5 sleeves of crackers, pulsed in food processor)
6 tbsp butter
1/3 C cane sugar

1/4 C Honey 
1/4 C Cane Sugar
2 T Flour
1 Medium Honeydew Melon
1 tsp Vanilla
4 Eggs, beaten

Whipped Cream:
1 C heavy whipping cream
1/4 C Powdered sugar

First make the crust. Preheat oven to 375F. Butter 1 large, or 4 small 4 inch tart pans. Melt the butter, and in a medium bowl combine graham cracker crumbs, butter and sugar. Press into the buttered tart pans until a uniform crust is formed.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, then remove and allow to cool on a wire rack. 

Peel, chop, and cube the honeydew melon, then place in  food processor and puree until smooth. 

Combine honeydew puree, honey, sugar, eggs, and vanilla in medium sauce pan, stir to combine, sift in flour, and stir again until thoroughly combined

Heat over medium low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens, about 9-13 minutes. 

Pour the custard into the tart pans until almost level with the top of the crust. Place in refrigerator and allow to set for 2-3 hours. 

Before serving, combine the heavy cream and powdered sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer, and using the whisk attachment mix on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Spread a 1/2 inch thick layer over each tart. Enjoy!